New Zealand to ban single-use plastic bags

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits in a chair as she attends her first cabinet meeting since returning from maternity leave in Wellington, New Zealand, August 6, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 August 2018
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New Zealand to ban single-use plastic bags

  • A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute
  • Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand

WELLINGTON: New Zealand became the latest country Friday to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying they will be phased out over the next year as a “meaningful step” toward reducing pollution.
New Zealand uses “hundreds of millions” of single-use plastic bags each year, many of which end up harming marine life, Ardern said.
“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start,” she said.
“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”
Ardern said her coalition government, which includes the Green Party, was facing up to environmental challenges and “just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.”
Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand and the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision to outlaw them.
“This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic,” Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said.
A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.
“If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour” and like most plastic garbage barely any is recycled, said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
The UN said more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.
But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers’ buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change, it added.


Category 4 Hurricane Willa threatens Mexico’s Pacific coast

This NOAA/RAMMB satellite handout image taken AT 5:30 UTC on October 22, 2018 shows hurricane Willa off Mexico's Pacific coast. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 31 sec ago
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Category 4 Hurricane Willa threatens Mexico’s Pacific coast

  • Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in the afternoon or evening somewhere along a 140-mile (220-kilometer) stretch extending from the resort town of Mazatlan to San Blas

MEXICO CITY: A potential catastrophic Hurricane Willa swept toward Mexico’s Pacific coast with winds of 145 mph (230 kph) Monday night, threatening a stretch of high-rise resort hotels, surfing beaches and fishing villages.
Farther south, Mexican officials reported 12 deaths related to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Vicente.
After briefly reaching Category 5 strength, Willa’s maximum sustained winds weakened some. But it remained “extremely dangerous” and was forecast to bring “life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall” to parts of west-central and southwestern Mexico ahead of an expected Tuesday landfall, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Hotel workers started taping up windows, and officials began evacuating people and shuttered schools in a low-lying landscape where towns sit amid farmland tucked between the sea and lagoons. A decree of “extraordinary emergency” was issued for 19 municipalities in Nayarit and Sinaloa states, the federal Interior Department announced.
Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state.
The hurricane was expected to pass over or near the Islas Marias — a set of islands about 60 miles (96 kilometers) offshore that include a nature preserve and a federal prison — early Tuesday.
Forecasters said Willa would then blow ashore in the afternoon or evening somewhere along a 140-mile (220-kilometer) stretch extending from the resort town of Mazatlan to San Blas.
It was projected to weaken somewhat before hitting land but was still expected to be extremely dangerous.
Yamile Bustamante, assistant general manager at the Crown Plaza de Mazatlan, said hotel executives were not ruling out the possibility of evacuating guests but were awaiting instructions from authorities.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit ordered coastal region schools to close and began preparing emergency shelters.
Enrique Moreno, mayor of Escuinapa, a municipality of about 60,000 people on Willa’s track, said officials were trying to evacuate everybody in the seaside village of Teacapan. He estimated 3,000 were affected but he expected some would try to stay.
“The people don’t want to evacuate, but it’s for their security,” he said.
About 60 miles (100 kilometers) up the coast in Mazatlan, with a metropolitan-area population of about 500,000, Mayor Jose Joel Boucieguez said officials prepared shelters and were closely monitoring low-lying areas. Mazatlan is a popular vacation spot and home to a large number of American and Canadian expatriates.
Late Monday, Willa was centered about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of the Islas Marias and 195 miles (310 kilometers) south-southwest of Mazatlan. It was moving north at 9 mph (15 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the storm’s center, and tropical storm-force winds were up to 125 miles (205 kilometers) out.
The US hurricane center warned that Willa could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain — with up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) in some places — to parts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa states, with flash flooding and landslides possible in mountainous areas.
Farther south, Tropical Storm Vicente weakened and was expected to dissipate soon, but it still dropped heavy rainfall that caused dangerous flooding in southern and southwestern Mexico.
Officials in Oaxaca state said seven adults and five children had lost their lives in drownings or mudslides.